Employing Family and Friends – How to Ensure Fairness

There are several pros and cons when it comes to employing your own family and friends. There are also some issues to consider when employing members of the same family within your business. It’s important to have policies in place to ensure that things remain fair, and there’s no issues with nepotism (favouritism) at work.

two employees having a discussion at a table

Before you appoint a member of your family or a close friend, there are some issues to think about. Firstly, you should only consider employing them if they really want the job. They will only gain respect from other staff members by earning it. If their heart isn’t in the job, this will show and will have an impact on other members of staff. They may start resenting the employee, and even you as an employer.

If there is a job available, they should be right for the role and able to carry it out well. You need to make sure the family member or friend has the same working conditions and treatment as other staff. For example, promotions or Pay Rises should be offered on merit only.

Create Policies For Family Members & Friends Working Together

You must give proper thought to workplace policy when deciding to offer a job to a family member or friend. A positive way to do this is to create policies for family members working together. These can be applied to the whole workforce. This ensures fair treatment for all, which will be good for staff morale.

It’s important to avoid upsetting staff members by allowing preferential treatment to friends or members of the same family. This could be bad for your business and overall staff performance. If you have an Appraisal Scheme, make sure that all employees are subject to the same appraisal procedure as all other staff members.

Family Members & Friends Working Together Policy Examples

Any policy to ensure fairness when family and friends are employed should be tailored to the needs of your business. However, procedures to ensure fairness might include:-

  • Hiring decisions being made by an impartial third party.
  • Managers not supervising family members.
  • Requiring employees to inform managers if they form a significant relationship with a colleague.
  • Having clear grievance procedures in place to ensure fair treatment.

Not all of these might be possible in a small family business. If you have clear policies in place to deal with any issues, it will ensure fairness for all employees. If this is the case, you may wish to have strategies in place to ensure good communication at work.

Preventing Communication Breakdown

When you employ or work with family members or close friends, open communication is important. If conflict arises, it might feel difficult to confront an issue or situation early on. This is false logic. It can create an atmosphere that puts your family / friends relationship at risk. It can also create potential problems for the business. You should seek to foster a workplace of open communication for all. This means both you and the staff have the chance to air grievances or discuss ways to improve the business.


Your relative or close friend is entitled to the same kind of legal protection as the rest of your workforce. This includes areas such as discrimination, health and safety, pay policy, Unfair Dismissal etc. These areas should not be overlooked.

What are the Advantages of Employing Friends and Family?

If you have appointed a family member or friend, they can be committed and enthusiastic about making the most out of the job. If you have ensured fairness in your dealings with them and the rest of your employees so that the new employee is treated just the same as the rest of your staff, then employing a family member or friend can be very good for the business.

They are likely to show extra motivation, commitment and loyalty and they will probably be flexible to fit in with your business requirements.

However, it is often a difficult balancing act to get this right. The key is to understand why you think the person is suitable. Ensure that they have the right motivation, commitment, skills and personal qualities to carry out the role. Most importantly, treat them as equals with the rest of your staff and have policies to deal with conflict in place from the start.

You may also be interested in our article that looks at an aspect of this topic more closely. Employing a spouse can have many benefits and is common within a family business, but it also needs to be carefully managed.

3 thoughts on “Employing Family and Friends – How to Ensure Fairness

  1. Dan23 says:

    Question: a department has just hired the daughter (who’s mother mother already works on that team) and now will be working together in the same department, is this not a conflict of interest to the business? They now both at the same level and with 1 non related colleague. The interview for the role was internal amongst more qualified candidates however the mother we was not on the hiring committee but has good relationship with the boss.

  2. Jamie67 says:

    My wife has been informed by her company she has to move departments because my sister is her direct manager. They have know this for two years but because it is in and has always been in their hand book it is now an issue. Surely this is discrimination.

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